Special Olympics Oregon cancels state games
Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) announced last week that it will suspend its state competitions a year after moving its popular Summer State Games from Newberg to Corvallis.
"We have searched for every possible scenario that paints a better picture, but this is where we are," said Britt Carlson Oase, named the organization's new CEO on June 1. "Currently, we don't have the funds available to pay for services we have used in the past, hindering our ability to carry out our 2018 schedule as planned."
SOOR's board of directors and the organization's executives made their decision following an internal financial review that showed a revenue shortfall in the 2018 budget, according to a news release. Coupled with expected expenses and existing debt, the organization said, there isn't enough money to pay vendors for the infrastructure needed to produce the State Games.
"Once we opened the books, we found significant challenges facing the organization," said Corporate Financial Officer Lori Van Dyke, who also joined SOOR on June 1. "In recent years, record management, processes and accounting practices were not well maintained."
Special Olympics Oregon is now taking steps to organize its financial records and establish a new financial plan, according to the release. That includes reducing expenses, implementing a hiring freeze following staff reductions, beginning new lines of communication with vendors and identifying opportunities for an immediate cash infusion.
"While the high-cost statewide competitions will be suspended, the organization is committed to providing opportunities for local training and programming for athletes," the release said. "The mission of Special Olympics Oregon will remain fully alive and operational throughout the transition."
After a two-year layoff SOOR's Summer State Games were held for five consecutive years at Newberg High School, thanks to the financial support of Ken Austin and his late wife Joan, owners of A-dec Inc.
During those five years participation increased by more than 64 percent. That growth presented some logistical challenges for organizers, especially in housing the more than 2,000 athletes and 600 coaches within a reasonable distance from Newberg, with some being housed as far away as north Portland.
SOOR's solution, announced in August 2016, was to partner with Oregon State University to move the Summer State Games to Corvallis beginning in 2017. The move allowed SOOR to house the majority of participants on campus, closer to the venues and contributing to the overall experience of the athletes.
"SOOR will always be grateful to the citizens and leadership of Newberg, who made the community a second home for our athletes," SOOR board president Kerry Tymchuk said in 2016. "This move is a success story and a big part of that success belongs to Newberg."
The announcement came as a blow to members of the local games organizing committee, including Newberg Mayor Bob Andrews.
"I understand their concerns, but I am disappointed," Andrews said in 2016. "We have grown the Summer State Games. We grew them to where they outgrew us."
The games were held in Corvallis in 2017 and took advantage of facilities at OSU, including Reser Stadium for the game ceremonies, Corvallis High School, Trysting Tree Golf Course and Philomath High School.
Team Oregon, a delegation of 44 individuals from around the state, will still travel to the 2018 USA Games in Seattle in early July, according to the news release.